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White Sox counting on experience to get through twin bill with Guardians

Sportsnaut
Jun 18, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) at the end of the seventh inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

There will be no shortage of experience on the mound for the Chicago White Sox on Saturday when they take on the visiting Cleveland Guardians in a doubleheader.

The White Sox are set to send 36-year-old right-hander Johnny Cueto to the mound in the first game, while 35-year-old Lance Lynn will pitch in the nightcap. That is 26 seasons of combined major league experience for Chicago, which is trying to turn things around after a disappointing start to the season.

On Friday, each team started its post-break schedule in the opener of a three-game series, with the Guardians earning an 8-2 victory. Cleveland received three RBIs from Josh Naylor and a two-run home run from Andres Gimenez.

While Lynn (1-3, 7.50 ERA) will have the responsibility of either finishing off a doubleheader sweep or trying to stave off one, Cueto will be tasked with getting things going in the right direction. The White Sox will need innings out of Cueto to keep the bullpen as fresh as possible to cover whatever Lynn can’t finish in the second game.

Cueto (4-4, 2.80) made an electric White Sox debut in May with six scoreless innings against the Kansas City Royals. He also has given up more than three earned runs in a start just once and has allowed three combined runs over his last three outings. More importantly, Cueto has averaged just shy of 6 2/3 innings per start over his last four outings.

In his last start, a 12-2 White Sox win at Minnesota, Cueto surrendered just one run on seven hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out five.

The veteran right-hander finished at 118 pitches, and would have been out after five innings and 103 pitches, but he persuaded manager Tony La Russa to give him one more inning.

“Sometimes you don’t feel very good,” Cueto said, via a translator, saying he felt “OK.”

“I didn’t have the energy or the strength, but the offense supported me and I was able to complete six innings,” he added.

In seven career starts against the Cleveland franchise, Cueto has found plenty of success, going 4-0 with a 2.28 ERA and two complete games.

Lynn has been having a rough time, giving up 19 combined runs over his last three starts, including eight runs in just four innings against the Guardians on July 11 at Cleveland. In nine career starts against the Cleveland organization, he is 4-4 with a 4.33 ERA.

While the White Sox are going with experience Saturday, the Guardians will take the opposite approach.

Cleveland is set to send 24-year-old right-hander Triston McKenzie (7-6, 3.20) to the mound in the opener. In the second game, 24-year-old rookie Konnor Pilkington (1-2, 4.24) is expected to be called up for the start.

Pilkington has made just 11 career appearances and eight starts. His most recent major league start came July 12 against the White Sox, when he gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits over five innings.

Pilkington has a 5.40 ERA over his last five major league starts while bouncing up and down between the Guardians and Triple-A Columbus.

McKenzie has been dominating of late with three consecutive scoreless outings covering 21 innings. He went eight scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers on July 14 with a career-high 12 strikeouts. He gave up just one hit over seven scoreless innings July 3 to the offensively proficient New York Yankees.

“That’s what I expect of him every time,” Naylor said. “He’s a phenomenal pitcher. … He’s having fun out there, but the last three outings have just been incredible. That Yankees outing really brought some great stuff out of him. I’m excited for the future for him.”

–Field Level Media